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L Entries
Elsa Lanchester
Martin Landau
Robert Lansing
Glen A. Larson
Jack Larson
Christopher Lee
Mark Lenard
John Lennon
John Lithgow
June Lockhart
Robert Longo
Peter Lorre
Eugene Lourie
George Lucas
Bela Lugosi
William Lundigan
 
LEE, CHRISTOPHER
(1922– ). British actor.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Acted in films: Corridor of Mirrors (Terence Young 1948); Hamlet (Laurence Olivier 1948); Valley of the Eagles (Young 1952); Babes in Baghdad (Edgar G. ULMER 1952); The Crimson Pirate (Robert Siodmak 1952); Alias John Preston (David MacDonald 1956); The Curse of Frankenstein (Terence FISHER 1957); Corridors of Blood (Robert Day 1957); Dracula [The Horror of Dracula] (Fisher 1958); Uncle Was a Vampire (Stefano Steno 1959); The Hound of the Baskervilles (Fisher 1959); The Mummy (Fisher 1959); The Man Who Could Cheat Death (Fisher 1959); The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll [House of Fright] (Fisher 1960); City of the Dead [Horror Hotel] (John Moxey 1960); Hercules in the Haunted World (Mario BAVA 1961); Scream of Fear (Seth Holt 1961); Terror of the Tongs (Anthony Bushell 1961); The Devil's Daffodil (Akos Vos Rathony 1961); The Hands of Orlac [Hands of a Strangler] (Edmond Greville 1961); Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (Fisher and Frank Witherstein 1962); Terror in the Crypt (Thomas Miller 1963); Castle of the Living Dead (Luciano Ricci 1963); Horror Castle (Antonio MARGHERITI 1964); The Devil-Ship Pirates (1964); The Gorgon (Fisher 1964); Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (Freddie FRANCIS 1964); What! (Bava 1965); She (Robert Day 1965); The Face of Fu Manchu (Don Sharp 1965); The Skull (Francis 1965); Dracula—Prince of Darkness (Fisher 1966); Psycho Circus (John Moxey 1966); Blood Fiend [Theater of Death] (Samuel Gallu 1966); The Brides of Fu Manchu (Sharp 1966); Rasputin—The Mad Monk (Don Sharp 1966); Night of the Big Heat (Fisher 1966); The Vengeance of Fu Manchu (Jeremy Summers 1967); The Blood Demon [The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism; Castle of the Walking Dead] (Harald Rienl 1967); The Devil's Bride [The Devil Rides Out] (Fisher 1968); Eve (Jeremy Summers 1968); Five Golden Dragons (1968); Blood of Fu Manchu (Jesse FRANCO 1968); The Castle of Fu Manchu (Franco 1968); Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (Freddie FRANCIS 1969); The Magic Christian (Joseph McGrath 1969); The Oblong Box (Gordon Hessler 1969); Eugénie ... The Story of Her Perversion (host) (Franco 1969); Scream and Scream Again (Hessler 1970); The Crimson Cult (Vernon Sewell 1970); One More Time (Jerry LEWIS 1970); Taste the Blood of Dracula (Peter Sasdy 1970); The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (Billy Wilder 1970); The Scars of Dracula (Roy Ward BAKER 1971); Night of the Blood Monster (Franco 1970); The House That Dripped Blood (Peter Duffell 1970); I, Monster (Stephen Weeks 1971); Count Dracula (Franco 1971); In Search of Dracula (documentary) (Calvin Floyd 1971); Dracula A.D. 1972 (Alan Gibson 1972); Horror Express (Eugenio Martia 1972); The Creeping Flesh (Francis 1972); Death Line (Gary Sherman 1972); Dark Places (Don Sharp 1972); The Devil's Undead [Nothing but the Night] (and co-produced) (Sasdy 1972); Raw Meat (Gary Sherman 1972); The Wicker Man (Robin Hardy 1973); The Satanic Rites of Dracula (Alan Gibson 1973); The Man with the Golden Gun (Guy Hamilton 1974); To the Devil ... a Daughter (Peter Sykes 1976); Dracula and Son (Edouard Molinaro 1976); The Keeper (Tom Drake 1976); Albino (Juergen Goslar 1976); Meatcleaver Massacre (host) (Evan Lee 1977); End of the World (John Hayes 1977); Starship Invasions (Ed Hunt 1977); Return to Witch Mountain (John Hough 1978); Circle of Iron [The Silent Flute] (Richard Howard 1978); An Arabian Adventure (Kevin Connor 1979); Bear Island (Don Sharp 1980); The Last Unicorn (animated; voice) (1982); House of the Long Shadows (Pete Walker 1983); The Return of Captain Invincible (Philippe Mora 1982); Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf (Mora 1985); The Land of Faraway (Vladimir Grammatikov 1987); Gremlins II: The New Batch (Joe DANTE 1990); Curse III: Blood Sacrifice (Sean Barton 1990); The Many Faces of Christopher Lee (documentary) (Colin Webb 1995); The Stupids (John LANDIS 1996); Tale of the Mummy (Russell Mulcahy 1998); Sleepy Hollow (Tim BURTON 1999); The Wicker Man Enigma (video documentary) (David Gregory 2001); Cries in the Night: Orlof 2001 (Franco 2001); The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings (Peter Jackson 2001); To the Devil ... The Death of Hammer (video documentary) (Gregory 2002); Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones (George LUCAS 2002).

Acted in television: "The Sorcerer," episode of One Step Beyond (1961); "The Sign of Satan" (1964), episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour; "Never, Never Say Die," "The Interrogators" (1968), episodes of The Avengers; Theatre Macabre (tv series; host) (1970); Poor Devil (tv movie) (Robert Sheerer 1972); "Earthbound" (1976), episode of Space: 1999; Mysteries of the Unknown: The Occult (tv special) (1977); Captain America II: Death Too Soon (tv movie) (Ivan Nagy 1979); Once upon a Spy (tv movie) (Nagy 1980); Goliath Awaits (tv movie) (1981); "Evil Stalks This House" (1981), episode of Tales of the Haunted; An Eye for an Eye (tv movie) (1981); Massarati and the Brain (tv movie) (Harvey Hart 1982); "The Boy Who Left Home to Find Out about the Shivers" (1984), episode of Faerie Tale Theatre; "The Rameses Connection" (1995), five-part episode of The Tomorrow People; 100 Years of Horror (tv documentary; narrator) (Ted Newsom 1996); A Century of Sci-Fi (tv documentary; narrator) (1996); Moses (tv movie) (Roger Young 1996); Sorellina e il Principe del Sogno (tv movie) (Lamberto Bava 1996); Strictly Supernatural (tv series; narrator) (1997); Wyrd Systers (animated tv miniseries; voice) (1997); Soul Music (animated tv miniseries; voice) (1997); The Odyssey (tv miniseries) (1997); In the Beginning (tv miniseries) (2000); Gormenghast (tv miniseries) (2000); Christopher Lee's Ghost Stories for Christmas (tv miniseries; host) (2000); Les Redoubtables (tv series) (2001); Quest for the Ring (tv documentary) (2001); A Passage to Middle-Earth: The Making of The Lord of the Rings (tv documentary) (2001).

 
Actually, no, I haven't seen every single film and television program that Christopher Lee has appeared in, and I know I never will; I will probably never even succeed in listing them all. However, this scarcely seems a necessary precondition to evaluation, because there is an inexorable sameness to all his performances. He is always tall, imposing, intimidating, frightening; he always works very hard to do every thing that the script asks him to do, with the unfailing professionalism that makes him popular with colleagues and directors; and he always acts in an utterly joyless manner, displaying absolutely no pleasure or interest in what he is doing.

That is why, even though he has played the part more than any other actor, Lee remains one of the screen's least impressive Draculas. To properly portray a vampire, one must convey that it is occasionally fun to be a vampire—to turn into a bat and fly around, to bite into a beautiful woman's neck, to suck some nice warm blood—and one must also convey that it is occasionally very sad to be a vampire—to never see the sun, to feel driven to satisfy a corrupt desire, to constantly fear exposure or extinction. Bela LUGOSI, while handicapped by a script that would have made him a supporting character, portrayed these emotions brilliantly; even Leslie NIELSEN, in the farcical Dracula —Dead, and Loving It, occasionally communicated such feelings. But for Christopher Lee, being a vampire is only a chore: you get up out of your coffin every night, you search for some woman to drain her blood, and you hiss in annoyance at crosses, garlic, running water, and all the other things that bother vampires. There is the similar aura of an obligatory routine to his various attempts at Fu Manchu, the Frankenstein monster, Dr. Jekyll, the Mummy, Sherlock Holmes, and other villains and monsters—colorful parts, colorlessly acted. To be sure, I have read admiring, even glowing, descriptions of some of these performances, but the simple fact remains: if you were directing a film featuring one of these roles, and you were given your choice of every actor in the history of film, you would choose an actor other than Christopher Lee for every single one of them. Truly, he is a jack of all horrifying trades, but master of none.

Perhaps, one might speculate, Lee was simply bored by horror films—which seemed evident enough in the late 1970s, when he announced that he would never play Dracula again, tried his hand at comedy as a guest host of Saturday Night Live, and began appearing in "mainstream" films like Airport 1977 (1977). But he didn't appear to be enjoying himself much in these new venues either, and, understandably failing to make much of an impression in the wider world of films, he inevitably drifted back into the genre from whence he came, albeit less frequently than before. No, one is forced to conclude, what bored Lee was the entire profession of acting itself.

Long after they have ceased caring about the predictable contrivances that are the stuff of most horror movies, viewers may find it stimulating to observe familiar performers and speculate about the private horrors they are experiencing while they do their business in front of the camera. In many cases, based on the evidence of the screen and data about the performer's life, a satisfying story can be constructed: Bela Lugosi, frustrated by dreams of the respectable and serious acting career he might have achieved; Lon CHANEY, Jr., tormented by his own manifest inadequacies as an actor; John CARRADINE, unable to bond with family members and friends and increasingly detached from reality. Yet Christopher Lee remains a complete mystery to me. Clearly, he didn't want to be an actor at all—but what did he really want to do? And why didn't he do it? His performances reveal only his profound dissatisfaction, not its causes, and there are no significant clues in the available biographical information or the man's infrequent interviews, in which he unconvincingly proclaims his deep love of and devotion to the profession of acting. (One must also note that Lee has legions of fans who discern great acting skills and passionate commitment in his performances, and a few of them vehemently objected to the original version of this entry; yet, I would politely suggest that they are seeing what they want to see more than what Lee actually conveys on the screen—because, of course, horror movie fans will always wish to believe that horror movie actors love what they are doing.)

Even if baffled by his motives, one can still admire his indefatigable, even vampiric, energy: now entering his eighties, he has continued to soldier on in various films and television miniseries, and he has recently enjoyed two of the most prominent roles of his career in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones. In both films, he portrayed a mystically powerful and once-noble leader who turns to evil, joins forces with the enemies of his former friends, and constructs and oversees a vast underground factory of malevolent creation ... all for no particular reason. Surrounded by inept, under-directed, or unmotivated performers, as in Attack of the Clones, Lee might garner the best reviews of his career for yet again going through his motions very well; but when part of a cast that knows and cares about what it is doing, as in The Fellowship of the Ring, Lee's robotic posturings are politely left unmentioned. While he can unpersuasively pretend to love the Dark Side or covet the Ring of Power, his true desires remain frustratingly inaccessible, as he privately wrestles with his secret demons that engage his attention more than the spectacular storylines and special effects that now surround him.

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